“These Dreams” is a haunting, soul wrenching and heartwarming dream of a book, which gives the reader the idea that two souls are bound in more ways than one.” – Sophia Thorsen
An abandoned bride
A missing man
And a dream that refuses to die…
Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty and Fitzwilliam Darcy is caught at the centre of a decades-old international feud. Taken far from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear, only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth.
Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley, and Colonel Fitzwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared, Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy’s death widens and questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past.
An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope.
Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn – alone and under mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might have been. Believing Darcy lost forever; she closes her heart against both pain and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.
Nicole had this to say of her new book;
This scene is the first in the book where Elizabeth “sees” Darcy. Her longing for him is so intense, and her guilt over what she perceives as her role in his “death” is so overpowering, that one small triggered memory explodes upon her senses. She has already shared some empathic bond, which she cannot understand, but in this scene we see her transported, for just a moment, to a real conversation with him. The moment leaves her reeling and discomposed, as well as even more heartbroken for the many ways she had misunderstood him. As a writer, I have already planned out how the story will unfold. As a consequence, I am often less affected by the emotion of a scene than a reader experiencing it for the first time. I do find, however, that for some of these intense scenes of grief and heartbreak that I had to almost method act my way through them. If I wasn’t grieving myself, my writing lost its authenticity. There were several days when I had to stop writing scenes like this because I was just in too good of a mood. I had to feel Elizabeth’s devastation and guilt, and I had to experience Darcy’s hopelessness and solitude, in order to capture those feelings with any semblance of fidelity to the characters.
You may also notice that this scene bears a strong resemblance to Janet Taylor’s gorgeous cover. She found that cover before I even had the scene written, although I had it planned in my mind. It absolutely gave me shivers to see it! There are two more “tree” scenes later in the book, and they, too, were already planned when she found this. I can only call it serendipity! I hope you enjoy this excerpt. ~NC
Nicole was nice enough to let us see a scene from the book; I will warn you, you’ll need a handkerchief and maybe a cup of tea AFTERWARDS! Because if you drink while reading this scene, you’ll regret it… I did *smiles sheepishly*
November passed, and with it the still, pleasant days of the long autumn. Deep winter dawned one morning with a vengeance, just as the residents of Longbourn fell under the pall of Lydia’s new circumstances. Elizabeth had not, after all, gone to London, for she felt her presence more sorely wanted now than ever by her youngest sister. She was the only remaining Bennet sister who felt thus, for Kitty and Mary had distanced themselves even farther from their wayward younger sibling—Mary, out of perceived righteousness, and Kitty, out of boredom.
Mrs Bennet’s nerves distressed her greatly during this time, for she worried now whether Lydia ought to risk the expected journey to Newcastle and her husband’s regiment. It was not to be attempted by coach, surely, but she felt it irregular in the extreme that Lydia should birth her child in the home of her girlhood before Mr Wickham had sent for her. “How everyone will talk!” she was often heard to lament. “Why, they will carry on as if you had no husband at all! Mrs Long will gossip so, and those Lucases cannot remain silent either. Lydia, my love, do take care not to leave your ring in your jewelry box when we have callers, and do not let it turn over so that the diamond cannot be seen! Such a fine ring it is. Surely no penniless soldier could have purchased it. They must see that!”
Mr Bennet, when he was present for these expressions of motherly concern, was known simply to roll his eyes and raise his paper yet higher. Within a few more sentences from his wife, he would invariably snort his derision and stalk to the privacy of his library—often not sparing a word even for Elizabeth as he passed.
For her part, Elizabeth was desperate to divert her sister. Lydia’s secret was no longer a private matter, but Elizabeth remained unconvinced that the girl would not still attempt to do herself harm. Lydia spoke the proper words of humility and resignation, but that rebellious streak that had previously caused her such great trouble was still very much a part of her character. It was evident in her eyes—a certain hardness that would not yet surrender. Whether she meant to work it for her own restoration or instead, it would prove her undoing remained uncertain.
As a consequence, Elizabeth seldom left Lydia’s side. She exerted all her considerable charm and wit to draw out the girl from her self-imposed solitude, and many an afternoon found them engaged in needlework or, more commonly, discordant duets at the pianoforte. These did little to improve Lydia’s skill, but much to lighten her moods.
A month’s time saw a minuscule improvement in Lydia’s spirits, but by mid-December, Elizabeth’s reserves of fortitude had paid a harsh toll. Her only escapes were those afternoons when she could consign the guardianship of her sister to Mrs Hill—for, as Mrs Bennet counseled, Lydia must be properly trained to manage her husband’s household when he sent for her, and surely an officer as distinguished as Mr Wickham would require a wife of the utmost sophistication and capability.
It was on these days when Elizabeth began walking regularly to Netherfield, bundled against the wind and rain. It was a restorative balm to her soul, sitting quietly for a time with Jane and even the kind Mr Bingley. Still, no matter the insistence of the application by her host and hostess, she could never be persuaded to take a room for the night. She often, however, availed herself of Jane’s new carriage when the weather had grown unpromising for a return walk.
This crisp afternoon held no rain, so Elizabeth bade her sister an affectionate farewell at the door. She deliberately did not see the worried looks exchanged by husband and wife as she turned down the steps, nor could she have known that, at a nod from Jane, Mr Bingley would summon one of his stable hands to unobtrusively follow her home to ensure her safety. She desired the solitude and the freedom of setting her own meandering pace, not intending to arrive again at Longbourn until nearly dusk.
She set out along an indirect way, one she had admired the previous year during her short residence at the house. It began near the manicured hedges and soon narrowed to a half-groomed path among the trees, leading down to a long grassy bank along the stream. The trail followed the water some way before turning back through an orchard, and finally, to the fields that bordered Longbourn. It was an isolated route, resplendent with the silver of impending frost and shrouded in a bower of blessed silence.
Elizabeth stopped as she neared the stream. This was her favourite scene along the route, where the shallows bubbled and coursed over the rocks and an old willow spread her bare branches over a little log bridge across the waters… and it was where she had once interrupted Mr Darcy’s silent reverie.
He had been leaning against that very tree, his tall frame only slightly off-balance as he stretched a long arm through the hanging branches to the trunk. His head had been bowed, seemingly lost in some private thought, until he heard her approach.
“Miss Bennet!” had cried he. He had then clamped his lips, as though fearful to speak another word.
Elizabeth had braced her shoulders then responded with a measured, “Mr Darcy,” followed by a short curtsey.
He had dropped his hand from the tree, casting about for some polite subject. “It is a fine day for walking,” he had offered—had there been some little eagerness in his tone?
“It is indeed, sir. This path is a favourite of mine. I beg you would excuse me for disturbing your solitude.” She had shifted her weight, preparing to walk on.
“It is no disturbance, Miss Bennet,” he had replied quickly. “I was about to return to the house.” His eyes had brightened, and she distinctly remembered a nervous swallow. Had he been about to offer to escort her?
“I am gratified to know that I do not trouble you, sir,” she had smiled archly. “I have only begun my constitutional, and so I shall bid you a good afternoon.”
“Do you ever ride, Miss Bennet?” he had interjected just as she was turning away.
Elizabeth had paused to study him curiously. Why should he have cared whether she ever rode? “I am perfectly capable of riding, sir, but I do not find it a terribly relaxing means of exercise.”
“No, but it need not always be relaxing. Rather, I should have thought one such as yourself might find it exhilarating. Have you never tried a fence?” His eyes had swept—very lightly—over her figure then, as though mentally evaluating her athletic prowess and suiting her with an appropriate mount and sidesaddle.
“No, sir. Horses tend to have a will of their own. As my own mind is quite determined to have its way, I do not like to think of matching my strength against that of a creature ten times my size.”
He had smiled then, and it had been the first time she had observed the small dimple in his cheek. Oh, that smile she remembered so well! The rare one, reserved only for quiet moments when… when he saw an opportunity to match wits. “It is not the power of the body, but the strength of the mind that determines a rider’s success. I believe yours to be one of remarkable tenacity, and I hope you will forgive the assumption that you enjoyed equestrian pursuits. Have you had some frightening experience?”
“I have been frustrated, and on more than one occasion. My own feet do not disobey me so readily as my father’s old hunter.”
Some spark had come to his eye then, and though his features had not moved, there had been a distinct light of humour to his countenance. Had he been mocking her, or… or flirting? “I trust, Miss Bennet, that should you ever undertake the enterprise with the whole force of your natural will, you shall meet with success.”
Elizabeth had felt a scowl spreading from her lips. “That is hardly a gentlemanly speech, sir. I cannot know whether you mean to compliment me, or call me willful.”
He had appeared shocked, either at her saucy retort or at the audacity of his own words. “I meant no offence, Miss Bennet. It was only an observation borne out by what I know of your character. You do not shrink from a challenge, and horsemanship can prove a valuable skill for a young lady. It seems likely that one day you will assume the weight of duties that will nearly demand such an accomplishment of you.” Had he been implying that she would one day be mistress of a larger estate than Longbourn?
“I thank you for your concern, sir. Should I ever find myself in need of an instructor to improve my riding, I shall not hesitate to seek your advice. For today, I prefer two feet to four.” She had glanced pointedly at Mr Darcy’s own feet then, just as he shifted one of them in her direction. Oh, mercy, he had been about to walk on with her! How could she have been so indifferent to his intentions?
He had stiffened noticeably. “Until dinner then, Miss Bennet. I wish you a pleasant outing.”
Elizabeth now braced against that very tree, gasping in horror. How sternly she had rebuffed his first overtures of friendship! Many other occasions of their early acquaintance had played again and again through her mind, but that first private talk had been nearly forgotten. How could she have missed his good opinion, shining in every uncomfortable syllable and pouring from his hesitant expression? Oh, dear heavens, he loved me even then!
She turned into the tree, bracing her arm against the cold bark and burrowing under it. Disgust with herself coupled with redoubled sorrow that she had deliberately misunderstood his meanings at nearly every encounter. Had she only been more reasonable, perhaps their brief, explosive acquaintance could have instead been one of mutual amity. Perhaps she might have perceived his unmerited passion, kept so viciously in check, and have understood the torment he sustained in determining not to offer for her. And perhaps… perhaps when he did at last succumb, she would have answered his ardent plea with gentleness, rather than indignation.
Four months they might have had together! So brief—what couple can truly form into one spirit in such a short span? Yet what would she have given to know him only a little better! To feel his lips brush her hair, just once—to hear him murmur lovingly, “My dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.”
A moan escaped her, a nearly inhuman cry of anguish as she crushed her face into the bark. If only she could substitute the physical pain of clasping that tree with all her strength for the wrenching suffering of her regrets! Yet it was not her own sorrow and loss that darkened her heart, but the certain knowledge that he had left this world believing she did not—never would! —care for him. The pain she had caused him could never be erased, and he had met his death never once hearing a tender word from her.
Four months she could have held him before that black day in August… But no! Had he been assured of her love, with her family in sufficient awe of his formidable approval, Lydia might never have been permitted to make that ill-fated journey! No dark errand might have then summoned him to the rotting underbelly of London, and no violent attack could have stricken him. It is all my own fault!
She beat her head mercilessly into the cold bark, almost wishing her brow would begin to bleed. Such an injury might at last bring atoning relief! Blood—Darcy’s blood—was no less on her hands than of those who raised their fists against him, and never could she be absolved. No court in the world would convict her, but what of poor Georgiana Darcy, if she knew all? Could she smile upon Elizabeth Bennet, the woman her brother had given his life to please, and hold her blameless? Certainly not! Because of her own pride and resentment, the best man in the world now lay cold in the crypt of his fathers.
She remained there, clutching the trunk of that unyielding old willow, until her fingers grew numb with the chill. Sighing deeply, she at last stepped back and looked once more on that hallowed ground where he had once stood. The grass, the leaves, even the lively brook were now muted. All was shriveled and dying in the ruthless grip of winter. Could her heart not similarly freeze? For a few months at least, could her love not slumber so she might know some measure of rest?
Oh, but even if the gift of merciful oblivion were offered her, she could never choose it. Elizabeth’s eyes scanned up the barren tree to the dwindling glow of the frost-obscured sun. To forget the pain of losing Darcy would be to grow insensible to her own conviction that there could never be another like him. Not for any inducement would she sacrifice the joy of being loved by one such as he, even for some relief from her sorrow. She would cling to that knowledge, that once she had been loved and loved in return, and it had wrought a tenderness and a beauty in her that left her forever marked by its passing. She would content herself—she must! —for the power of this love must suffice for a lifetime.
Elizabeth clutched a hand to her chest, wishing to seize that ache and to never let it go, for it was now her only token of him. I will always belong to you! She vowed silently. Never will another touch my heart, for you took it with you.
Her mouth worked frantically as she made her resolution, desperate to avoid another wild outcry of anguish into the woods. None should know of her sorrow—it was hers to bear willingly and alone. Trembling, she dashed the cold tears from her cheeks. Then she turned quietly and resumed her solitary march to Longbourn.
WARNING ⚠ As you can read dear readers, handkerchiefs are definitely going to be needed for this book!
But I will admit that the book turned out to be a favourite and a kindred spirit. And personally, I cannot wait for the next book!
Review by Sophia Thorsen;
At first I was worried about the premise of the book, but quickly it turned so very intriguing and I thought it was sooo strongly written, so very strong and heartfelt.
Personally I think you would have to be heartless if you don’t feel Elizabeth’s pain, heartache, despair, hope and love throughout the book. My heart broke to pieces more than once, during the read, and I will admit to a close call on a fainting spell at a certain point in the book! I will warn that very tender and heartbreaking scenes will appear between ch8-10!
I was extremely pleased with the way, Nicole, wrote this book and how much she allowed us to see of Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana during the book, and even the Matlock’s appeared more than once. Colonel Fitzwilliam, really grew on me during this book, especially how he grew as a character, throughout the book, and with his bachelor status in danger from an old flame, will he remain a bachelor or will he allow his heart to rule him for once? Or will he let old prejudices stand in his way again?
The themes of the book goes largely on patriotism, loyalty, pride and love and something even deeper; hope and determination. Elizabeth and Darcy are bound together, through their souls in ways deeper than marriage, something that allows them both to survive and keep their love as intense as it ever could have been, had they been married.
Though I wanted to kick Lady Catherine’s ass more than once during the book, as she was an interfering b****! But the character which surprised me the most was Lydia Wickham need Bennet, she had a very strong development throughout the book, especially after her arrival to Pemberley! Though someone else surprised me by the end of the book, and for once Wickham surprised me enough to think that he MIGHT be redeemed after all. But … who knows! *shrugs*
But I promise there is a very HAPPY ending by the end of this heartfelt and heartbreaking read, dear readers!
Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, an N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became bestselling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.
Contact Info: (Link is embedded in the name)
Buy Links for Nicole’s other books:
Annnnnnnd now dear readers, we finally come to the Giveaway opportunity:
The giveaway will consist of 10 eBooks and is international.
Terms and Conditions:
Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.
A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.
And that dear readers was that for now! But please leave a comment below won’t you? And go and buy the book, you WON’T regret it!
See you when I see you guys *winks*